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Détente as a new Winter Olympic Event?

The United States is not going to boycott the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Neither is any other participating country for that matter. Russia’s new hard-line anti-LGBT laws, unconditional support of the Assad regime in Syria nor the granting of asylum for Edward Snowden will slow down, let alone halt, the games in Sochi.

This brings up an important question: How did poor Vancouver get dragged into this? The Canadians don’t want it back there. The Vancouver Sun doesn’t even have the attempt by some to relocate the Games there as a main story on the front page today. The online version of the paper, however, does have a report several headlines above the Change.org’s petition story that reads: “Miami Beach teen caught spraying graffiti dies after shock from police Taser”. This is the level of excitement that British Columbians have when considering the prospect of hosting their 2nd Olympic Games in 4 years.

When you do find the report, it does quote Vancouver City Councilman Geoff Meggs as saying a 7 month lead time to get Vancouver ready as an Olympic Plan B is “not like putting fresh sheets on the guest bed.” The story continues: “I can understand the intention, but practically I don’t see how it could happen,” he said Wednesday, noting Vancouver had seven years to plan the 2010 Games. “I think lots of people in Vancouver would love to have the Games again, but it’s a question of who would pay for it and how it could possibly be done, and I don’t think we know the answer to either of those questions,” he said. Clearly It would seem in some quarters that if American celebrities want Russia to be put on notice that their government is doing unfair, cruel and inhumane things to innocent people (which it has been doing since the days of the czars), then maybe those same celebrities better starting writing some big checks to the City of Vancouver. Fast.

Many people, especially activists on the left, are under the delusion the Olympics are about competition, athletic spirit and national pride. They’re not. They’re about money. Lindsey Vonn made $2.5 million after the 2010 Winter Games. Apolo Ohno made $1.5 million, Bode Miller made $1.3 million and all three of these individuals are still earning huge sums years after the flame was extinguished over Vancouver. Truly these are the lives that will be in tatters if they can’t participate in Sochi next February. Make no mistake, the decision of whether to boycott the Olympic Games is absolutely not about salvaging the egos of athletes who have “trained their whole lives for this moment”. Neither Moscow nor Washington nor any other government honestly gives a damn about the training amateur athletes do in order to excel in their sport at Olympic levels. If by some bizarre twist of fate the games are boycotted or cancelled, I’m quite certain the thrill of having the chance, just the chance, to compete in world championships, endorse breakfast cereals and pose in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue will make these young people quite content.

Nobody despises the actions of the Kremlin lately more than I do. Russia’s record on human rights has been abysmal for generations and Vladimir Putin shows no sign of wanting to buck the trend. So if anyone wants the Winter Games in 2014 moved out of Russia, don’t listen to people like Stephen Fry, George Takei or disgruntled NSA and State Department officials who are still fuming over the fact that they couldn’t get Snowden in handcuffs. Also, enough with the whole 1936 Berlin Olympics comparison either. Jacques Rogge and his bunch at the IOC aren’t buying what the media is selling so let’s drop that one, shall we? Petitions to the White House will be completely and utterly useless. The U.S. Government will do what it feels is in the best interest of the country and wondering whether or not to participate in a Russian Olympics isn’t high on the list. You want to send petitions? Send them to the boards of directors of Nike, McDonald’s, GE, Coca-Cola, Reebok, Omega, Dow Chemicals, P&G, Samsung, British Petroleum, Rolex, Verizon, Gatorade and Adidas. If anyone has a say on the who, what, where, when, why, and how of the Olympic Games, they do…